by Margo Hall | photo courtesy Vanderbilt Divinity School
Damien Domenack is an admission fellow and part of the admission team for the Vanderbilt School of Divinity. He recently graduated with a master’s degree in theology and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. He helps people find their calling in ministry and helps them determine if studying theology is right for them.
Damien was drawn to ministry because his mom was a minister. He found some of the same tenants of Christianity in community organizing.
When Damien was younger, he was not accepted by his church and filled that part of his life creating community spaces. He found those same tenants in the LGBT+ community, as well as the immigrant and people of color (POC) communities, that he discovered when moving to New York City to pursue his undergraduate degree.
During his time in New York, he was a part of the Audre Lorde Project and a founding member of Trans Justice. As a member of Trans Justice, he helped start the first-ever trans and gender non-conforming march for social and economic justice.
One of the things he loves about community organizing and working with people is giving people spaces to feel safe and to have conversations. This was a part of his work at the Vanderbilt LGBT+ center on campus. His academic work also includes working with prisons and individuals who are incarcerated. For Domenack, understanding our interconnectedness and roles with our communities is essential, especially for trans people. “Allowing for trans folks to exist outside just the trans bubble, is the reality of our lives,” he states. “The way we push forward in that reality is into that interconnectedness.”
When asked about his path to understanding his relationship with God, he explains he was “made in the image of God, whichever form he chooses to believe in.”
In recounting his religious trauma, Damien talks about how he learned his conflict was not his own. He said it comes from “negative ways of speaking about God” that feeds personal agendas, and that “it is a construct for hate, and that is not God, and that is not Christianity.”
This hate impacts the LGBT+ and other minority communities around the world which means his trauma is a part of an oppressive system. So rather than reconciling what he feels does not belong to him, he focuses on that which is his own.
A ministry based on community
In finding happiness in his life and as a trans person, Damien says, “It didn’t come without challenge and learning about how my body, mind and soul all work together. Was that through Christianity? No. It was through part queer culture, yoga [and] Afrodiasporic religion.” He goes on to say, “It is a part of [my] ancestry and getting to know [myself] and [my] people and [my] trans identity.” Those are the things, he feels, Christian supremacy does not want you to know.
Through this self- discovery, Domenack made the core of his work to be with transgender, non-binary individuals who have religious trauma. That was the work he did at the LGBT+ center on campus and will be his continued work during divinity school. The community work he has dedicated his life to is his ministry.